Sleep deprivation is a catch-all culprit for many modern ills. Lack of sleep can lead to more than just a bad mood and poor performance. It has also been shown to reduce immunity and set the stage for heart disease, diabetes, depression, and more.
Now, some medical experts have linked sleep shortage to issues like hair loss affecting millions yearly. Doctors and patients are always searching for new explanations for hair loss, and focusing on sleep may be an overlooked route.
So, does lack of sleep cause hair loss? How can improving your sleep protocol help promote healthier, more resilient hair?
It’s time to find the true connection between hair loss and sleep deprivation and commit to a plan that works long-term.
Before discussing how lack of sleep can lead to hair loss, let’s define sleep deprivation. This medical term is broad and difficult to diagnose with precision, as it can include any sleep pattern that fails to meet the recommended hours per night for the average adult.
Anything less than seven hours per night can be insufficient for most adults, especially when that debt builds up over many days and weeks.
Considering that one-third of Americans suffer from sleep deprivation, it’s worth exploring the subject further and seeing how it may be connected to hair loss, whether directly or through other means.
There is no all-encompassing cause for sleep deprivation among adults since the science of sleep is largely case-by-case. Some adults become sleep-deprived due to schedule overload and juggling too many obligations in life, including work, school, family, and more.
Other adults find themselves short on sleep due to unseen conditions that make it difficult to fall or stay asleep, even with plenty of time available each night. These could range from hormonal disruptions to stress management or poor lifestyle choices.
Environmental factors can also contribute to a lack of sleep, including seasonal allergies, sunlight, temperature, and more. Determining your source of sleep deprivation requires a targeted approach and honest assessment on every level.
Even a few lost hours of sleep can negatively impact the health of your body and mental state. You may notice that a sleep shortage first affects the mind, taking a toll on short-term memory and leaving you in a zombie-like state.
That cognitive impairment isn’t just inconvenient or annoying — it also leads to problems in relationships and professional pursuits. Physical issues can appear when sleep deprivation is not addressed, affecting immune health, recovery, stress response, and more.
Chronic sleep deprivation is not only unpleasant but also dangerous if you’re at the wheel. The potential for hair loss is just one of many reasons to fix your sleep and commit to better habits all around.
There may be no definitive studies linking sleep deficiency to hair loss, but researchers have pinpointed many possible connections between the two. Here are the top five ways that a lack of sleep can worsen hair loss for those with a genetic predisposition.
Endocrinology remains one of the most complex disciplines within human biology and pathology. Hundreds of hormones dictate how things work within the body, from development in puberty to regulating metabolism, immune function, and more.
Additionally, most hair loss research has found the male hormone testosterone to be a primary driver, specifically the breakdown of that hormone to DHT in the scalp. When sleep is disrupted, hormones may quickly become imbalanced, setting the stage for hair health to decline.
The body constantly goes through cycles of exertion and recovery, from muscles and cardiovascular output to cognitive function and disease-fighting. Lack of sleep directly impacts the efficiency of these recovery processes, which explains the toll that sleep deprivation takes on overall health.
When the body is unable to recover, it prioritizes vital functions and loses the ability to perform less important jobs. Hair strength and vitality are among the first to go, which may reveal why sleep deficiencies are so often linked to hair loss.
It’s easy to forget that our skin is the largest organ in the body and one of the most sensitive. Unlike internal organs and complex systems, we can read visual signals on the skin to detect underlying issues.
We apply this same principle to hair, which shows early signs of thinning and shedding even before hair loss is diagnosed. Furthermore, skin and hair are closely linked in terms of vitality, and many dermatological issues can result in early hair loss among men and women.
The realities of “beauty sleep” may fairly cross over to hair health, as restorative sleep allows skin and hair to fully recover and make the most of nutrients and growth factors like collagen and elastin.
The anagen and telogen phases of follicle development are key to understanding hair health and loss. Just as we need deep sleep to overcome injuries and bounce back from tough workouts, it’s also necessary for individual follicles to navigate the cycles of growth, rest, and revitalization.
By cutting sleep short, we may be handicapping the body’s ability to manage hair cycles individually, leading to more widespread hair loss over time.
Every person experiences stress in an acute sense, with compounds such as cortisol and adrenaline offering a quick boost of energy and focus. However, chronic stress combined with sleep deprivation can deplete the adrenals and leave us susceptible to physiological issues of all kinds, including hair loss.
It’s no surprise that stress and insomnia are closely linked, and hair loss is also associated with these problems. Conquering stress and achieving deeper sleep should be a top priority for anyone experiencing hair loss or concerned about the possibility.
While we may not have certain proof that lack of sleep causes hair loss, patients should do everything in their power to optimize all aspects of their lifestyle for the best outcomes.
Here are some actionable ways to regain control of your sleep and give your hairline the best chance of survival, despite genetic or environmental factors.
It’s time to start repaying any sleep debt you may have, which means dedicating time and mental space to quality sleep. Carve out an extra hour per night, whether in the evening or morning. On weekends, squeeze in an afternoon nap without disrupting your rhythm.
Once sleep debt is paid off, avoid slipping back into old patterns. Set a sleep routine and stick to it to reap the benefits of deep rest.
This might mean skipping afternoon caffeine, practicing meditation, or forbidding electronics before bed. Keep a log of what works and apply these practices consistently so that you don’t find yourself out of pocket for quality sleep.
Some of the damage done by poor sleep habits and lifestyle may be hard to reverse with habits alone. With genetic factors involved, direct intervention could be the best option.
Meet with a trusted hair loss professional to take stock of your hair loss progress and set forth a strategy backed by research and real-world results.
The case for sleep is well-established in multiple disciplines of science and medicine. Doctors across the board agree that good sleep habits are a pillar of health and should be a first-order recommendation before you reach for medications and treatments.
However, sleep alone isn’t going to restore hair loss from years of thinning and receding due to androgenetic alopecia or other hair disorders.
Be sure to focus on lifestyle and sleep quality as a foundation, but don’t hesitate to get extra assistance from professionals like Dr. Jae Pak, MD, for a complete approach to restoration.
Speak with Jae Pak, M.D. today!Request a Consultation